Platinum Partners Lawyers Learn Judges Are Actually Kind Of Touchy About Witness Intimidation

Maybe the best advice for defense lawyers thinking about sending cryptic letters to key government witnesses is: don't.
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(Rob Lavinsky/iRocks.com via Wikimedia Commons)

(Rob Lavinsky/iRocks.com via Wikimedia Commons)

Checking in last week on the Platinum Partners saga, we found lawyers for founder Mark Nordlicht engaged in a war of epistolary interpretation with government prosecutors. At issue was a letter Nordlicht's counsel sent to a key witness in the case, a former Platinum employee turned FBI informant known to the court as CW-1. The letter basically said: Hey, we know you ate cheese and told the feds you were party to illegalshenanigans at Platinum so our only question now is why, pray tell, hasn't your current employer informed investors over your confessed shenanigans?

There are a few ways one might construe such a letter. Perhaps, despite it being a roundabout way of doing so, Nordlicht's lawyers just wanted some clarity regarding what agreements the witness had made with the government. Or maybe, as prosecutors argued, it was a “veiled threat” and “tantamount to witness intimidation.” Who can say?

This being a legal proceeding, the judge can say, and boy did she:

The New York federal judge overseeing the criminal case against former Platinum Partners executives threatened to throw the book at attorneys for one of them on Friday if she hears more of what she deemed “reprehensible” and potentially intimidating contact with could-be witnesses.

In a brief but fiery status conference, U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry told Platinum co-founder Mark Nordlicht's counsel that she is “appalled” at their letter to an attorney for a former Platinum employee, which prosecutors call an intimidation attempt.

The judge went on to express “extreme” surprise that lawyers at so august a firm as Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan would pull such a move, which, if you think about it, is actually more of a diss on Quinn Emanuel than the particular lawyers in the case. The more desperate your case is, the less scruples you'll want your counsel to have. As it stands, Platinum's former partners have a pretty impressive set of charges arrayed against them, from asset inflation to ponzi maneuvering to straight-up bribery. What's a little witness intimidation next to all that?

Judge 'Appalled' At Atty's Letter To Ex-Platinum Employee [Law360]

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